Unity With Diversity: the Way of Nature

It is a salient characteristic of the mental consciousness that it tries to create unity through regimentation and the development of uniformity.  Differences of ideas, culture, religion, language, race, all create potential for mental disagreement and dispute.  The idea is then to eliminate all these differences in order to achieve order and peace.    If everyone thinks the same things, dresses the same way, and acts according to the same ideas, then, the theory goes, we shall achieve unity.

When we observe Nature, however, we see a complexity that defies such mental structures.  We see symbiotic relations between human beings and plants, between plants and insects, etc.   A countless number of different plants, insects, animals and human beings occupy the planet and co-exist; in fact, they do not just coexist, but they actually depend on one another for their own survival and growth.  Nature finds its harmony without enforcing strict uniformity; rather, it seems to thrive best with a diversity that is beyond our conception.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “But uniformity is not the law of life.  Life exists by diversity; it insists that every group, every being shall be, even while one with all the rest in its universality, yet by some principle or ordered detail of variation unique.  The over-centralisation which is the condition of a working uniformity, is not the healthy method of life.  Order is indeed the law of life, but not an artificial regulation.  The sound order is that which comes from within as the result of a nature that has discovered itself and found its own law and the law of its relations with others.  Therefore the truest order is that which is founded on the greatest possible liberty; for liberty is at once the condition of vigorous variation and the condition of self-finding.  Nature secures variation by division into groups and insists on liberty by the force of individuality in the members of the group.  Therefore the unity of the human race to be entirely sound and in consonance with the deepest laws of life must be founded on free groupings, and the groupings again must be the natural association of free individuals.  This is an ideal which it is certainly impossible to realise under present conditions or perhaps in any near future of the human race; but it is an ideal which ought to be kept in view, for the more we can approximate to it, the more we can be sure of being on the right road.  The artificiality of much in human life is the cause of its most deep-seated maladies; it is not faithful to itself or sincere with Nature and therefore it stumbles and suffers.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 28, Diversity in Oneness, pp. 243-244